Attributed to George Romney (1734-1802), British
REPORTED TO BE LADY WEBSTER, DAUGHTER OF DR. RICHARD NAIRN, DEAN OF BATTLE “IN BLACK DRESS WITH WHITE CAP” (DIED DECEMBER 25TH, 1810 AT THE AGE OF 82)
Oil on canvas; titled and inscribed to the accompanying handwritten letter from Britnell Art Galleries, Richmond Hill, Ontario letterhead, undated, that reads: "Lady Webster by George Romney / Lady Webster daughter of Dr. Nairn Dean of Battle, married Sir Whistler Webster, 2 Bart. who died S.P. in 1779/ (died) Dec 25th, 1810 “In black dress with white cap” (taken from Humphry and Roberts)
30 x 25.5 in — 76.2 x 64.8 cm
Lady Webster's obituary reads:
"At Battle Abbey, in her 82nd year, Lady Webster, relic of the Late Sir Whistler W. Bart ("Sir Whistler Webster 2 Bart who died S.P. in 1779"), and eldest daughter of the late Rev. Richard Nairn, Dean of Battle. Lady Webster dying without children, the Battle of Abbey estate devolves upon Sir Godfrey Webster, great-nephew of Sir Whistler."
Alex Kidson references this work in his catalogue (volume 3, page 904) but only to dismiss it as not by George Romney. The portrait is listed in an appendix devoted to works that were included in Ward and Roberts's old catalogue which Kidson excluded from his. According to Mr. Kidson, this portrait was offered at Freeman’s, Philadelphia in 1935, but the information is very sketchy- a photograph in the Witt Library annotated with the sale details, looks as though it is of the same work. There is no reference to this portrait of Lady Webster in any known Romney document.
Mr. Kidson suggests that this portrait may have been painted around 1772, when Lady Webster would have been 44 years of age.
We are grateful to Alex Kidson and The Romney Society for their assistance in cataloguing this lot.
“The Gentleman’s Magazine” 1810, Volume LXXX, Part 2, ‘Obituary: with Anecdotes of Remarkable Persons’, p. 666: for December 25;
Humphry Ward and W. Roberts, “Romney: A Biographical and Critical Essay with a Catalogue Raisonne of his Works,” 1904, Vol. II, p. 168, mentioned “Lady Webster” briefly with reference to the Christie’s sale of 1897;
Alex Kidson, “George Romney: A Complete Catalogue of His Paintings” in three volumes, Yale University Press, 2015
Said to be:
Collection of the sitter, Lady Webster at Battle of Abbey;
By decent to Sir Godfrey Webster, great-nephew of Sir Whistler Webster after December 25th, 1810;
Sold Christies, July 1897, Lot 54 (to “Hasties” according to the Britnell document);
Britnell Art Galleries, Richmond Hill, Ontario document;
Robert C. Britnell, 8 Craigleith Crescent, Richmond Hill, On., label to the frame verso;
With Christie's, October 24, 1990, temporary receipt;
The Estate of Doreen Britnell, Richmond Hill, Ontario